I’ve spent most of a lifetime being chased around a campfire by smoke. You know the drill, if you’ve spent any time camping at all. You snuggle up to the warmth of your tiny blaze, and then the smoke gets in your eyes. You move, and it follows… Plus, when you get back out of the woods, everything smells of smoke. Everything you eat in camp tastes of smoke, too.
Which was why when I heard a friend talking about Russian Caravan tea, I was intrigued. Smoke is, for me at least, a sweet nostalgic memory. Also, I do like to smoke meats, and have you ever had a grilled peach (or other fruit, for that matter)? So I’m not a huge tea drinker, and I’ve been managing these last few months on prodigious amounts of coffee, and I tucked the idea in the back of my mind and went on with life.
Up until the con in September, that is. There was a vendor there selling teas. Twenty or thirty blends of the stuff, and my son had taken the time to talk with the lady and sniff her wares, and then he sent me over to do the same. I bought a tin of the one he’d really liked (a chocolate cherry blend) and I bought myself a blend out of sheer curiosity. Then it took me six weeks and the onset of cooler weather to finally get around to brewing a cup of it.
Cossack’s Kiss is aggressively smoky.
The smoke, of course, is from Lapsong Souchong, which I had to look up. This cuppa was like spicy smoke in my mouth, even with the addition of a dab of honey and a dollop of cream. I’m not used to tea being savory. But before I looked it up, I did something odd. I put some in with the pork roast I was pressure-cooking to convert to pulled pork. I was thinking at the time: smoke? Fruits? Spices? Why not?
I don’t know yet how that’s going to come out, but I was surprised to discover that I’m hardly the first to have that instinct. Lapsong souchong has been used in stocks and as a spice to add smokiness for a long time. I’ll try it again sometime in a little more planned dish. For now? I like the tea. This is tea with personality, it’s got a kick, and you can’t see it lifting a pinky and smiling politely. Nope. Brash swagger and teasing you all the way round and round the campfire!
Fortunately, the proprietress has her wares online, so if you’re missing that smoke that gets in your…everywhere, she’s got it.